Literary translation as a form of “shared authorship”

Literary translation as a form of “shared authorship”

Published in: Literary translation

by Pisana Ferrari – cApStAn Ambassador to the Global Village

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2018 (1), speaks of the “profound loneliness” inherent in the work of a translator in a recent interview for the “Korean Literature Now” magazine (2). There is an incredible relief, she says, that comes with being able to “share authorship” with someone and relinquish at least part of the responsibility for a text, “for better or for worse”. Writers, for days or months or even years on end, “wander alone in the cosmos of their thoughts, internal dialogues, and visions”. Translators “come to us from the outside and say: I have been there, too. I have walked in your footsteps, and now we will cross over this border together”. The translator thus becomes a guide, taking the writer by the hand and leading him/her across the borders of nation, language, and culture. In this interesting and insightful article Tokarczuk raises an issue which will now doubt resonate closely with many professionals in the translation field, and freelancers in general.


1) The Man Booker International prize is an international literary award hosted in the United Kingdom. Since 2016, the award has been given annually to a single book in English translation, with a £50,000 prize for the winning title, shared equally between author and translator.

2) “How Translators Are Saving the World” @

Read more about the topic of isolation in the translation profession in “Mental Health in Freelance Translation: Isolation” @